I originally wasn’t going to write an article about this past weekend, but after reading
Wes Wise’s article, I feel the need to defend/explain myself. I admit that Caw-Blade is the best deck in Standard. There’s no arguing that—you’d be
pretty arrogant to even attempt to dispute that—however, it’s not unbeatable. Here are some things that I took into consideration when
picking my deck for the Invitational.
It’s no secret that I enjoy playing rogue decks. I enjoy being creative, piloting the unknown and inspiring people to break away from conformity.
I also dislike how repetitive matches become when you’re playing a “real” deck. You spend nine rounds playing the same three matches
over and over again. That’s a good thing if you don’t like variance—but I find it kind of boring. I find a format to be healthy when
you have at least a handful of decks to choose from; with that said, I feel like the current Standard format is obviously very unhealthy. The last
block that was “dominated by Jund” was a fine format in my opinion. You had Jund, Mythic, Naya, Mono Red, Turboland, and a handful of other
decks that you could do well in a tournament with. Right now, it’s pretty much play Caw-Blade or bust.
The Invitational was pretty much my last attempt to rogue the current Standard format. I’ve been defeated…
I was talking to Justin Parnell a few days before the Invitational, and he was trying to talk me into playing Caw-Blade, but I just didn’t want
to. Justin was kind enough to help me brew and test another deck. I told Wes I was playing Caw-Blade so he wouldn’t yell at me for eight hours in
the car on the way to Indy. So, for clarity’s sake, I’m dissolving Justin Parnell of any responsibility for my deck choice at the Invitational.
It was my entire fault! That’s an awkward statement now that I think about it. The word “fault” should never involve deck choices.
That’s just something Wizards will have to fix, and in due time I feel like they will. They’ll either probably print a hoser card in M12 to
control Stoneforge Mystic or just flat out ban it.
Now that I’m done fixing the current Standard format, I can get back to my article.
What deck did you play, Ali?
I thought you’d never ask. This was the Standard deck that I sleeved up for the Invitational.
After arriving at the hotel and building this list, I told Brad Sheppard to play some games against me. I wanted to play around ten games to get the
hang of the match. Brad wanted to sleep, but after I wouldn’t let him, he finally sat down, and a massacre ensued.
The deck was just stomping him game one—a turn 2 Blighted Agent into a Grand Architect just put me so far ahead. Viral Drake was able to block
almost any creature he could throw out, and after a resolved Architect, it could even block the dreaded Batterskull. The deck seemed very aggressive,
and it allowed you to ignore their life gain. The deck seemed well positioned for this event; with the decline of Lightning Bolt, Condemn, Day of
Judgment, and Gideon Jura, it seemed like good timing. After stomping Brad, I figured this deck was good enough against Caw-Blade, so I wrote my list
down and got ready for bed. I had heard rumors about some Vengevine deck getting popular so I threw in two Surgical Extractions to stop the plant in
its roots. (Get it? Roots and not tracks!)
With hindsight being 20/20, I do realize that I should have played Caw-Blade. Unfortunately, until the format changes—and you can hold me to
this—I’ll be registering a deck that contains four Jace, the Mind Sculptors, four Stoneforge Mystics, and some number of counterspells, efficient
creatures, and removal.
YOU HAVE TAKEN MY SOUL, CAW-BLADE!
- 2 Mana Leak
- 1 Divine Offering
- 2 Spell Pierce
- 4 Preordain
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 2 Batterskull
- 2 Mental Misstep
- 1 Sword of War and Peace
- 3 Dismember
OMG SO CRAZY RIGHT?
Even though we are trying some new cards like Consecrated Sphinx and Mental Misstep, I still feel dirty for posting that list. Inkmoth Nexus is getting
better and better; it can be a godsend when both players have over 40 life, thanks to a Batterskull.
The board is somewhat tuned to beat the new Elf deck that is trying to re-emerge by having Ousts, Condemns, and Day of Judgments. Also since RDW and
Vampires are coming back, we can board into a classic U/W Control deck with Celestial Purges, Baneslayer Angels, and Condemns. I believe you have to
run three Dismembers main since that’s your only saving grace against the mirror when they’re on the play and have the Mystic. Misstep isn’t
amazing in the mirror, but it can blow your opponents out especially when they just leave that lonely Island up, and you cast a big daddy Jace. This is
the list I’ll be running and tweaking until something happens to Stoneforge Mystic.
With the Standard portion of this article out of the way, I can concentrate on a healthy format! Wes and I were talking about Legacy, and he theorized
that Wizards toys with the banned list to keep the format from becoming stagnant. Essentially, he thinks that Wizards wants Legacy to have the largest
selection of cards to pick from while still maintaining decks that aren’t 40/60 carbon copies. As of right now, Legacy is extremely healthy, and
we’re not sure if they’re going to unban anything. I was going to go through a list of cards that we think might be unbanned in Legacy, but
I believe Wes is going to write an article on that soon; it’s more of his department anyway.
At the Invitational, I didn’t play that much Legacy in the main event. However, I saw a sweet deck running Bloodbraid Elves in the Legacy Open
and decided to brew a list. Introducing…
- 1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- 2 Grim Lavamancer
- 2 Trygon Predator
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 2 Vendilion Clique
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf vs. Natural Order
I’m sure you’re asking: why Bloodbraid Elf over Natural Order, Ali?
I personally hate Natural Order. I don’t like crossing my fingers while losing card advantage and hoping my opponent doesn’t have the
counter or wrath effect. Against aggressive decks like Fish or Goblins, it’s not even that good since they can still just swarm you, and god
forbid Goblins has the Piledriver. I’d much rather get card advantage, especially if I’m paying four mana for my sorcery-speed spell. It just
gets better if I can manipulate that card advantage. I want to avoid getting blown out in a format that has slowed down and is running Jace, the Mind
This deck is like the prior RUG Extended deck. The deck can Bloodbraid into an Ancestral Vision for huge card advantage; go ahead and pinch yourself.
It’s not a dream. You could also cascade into a mediocre one-drop, but we can avoid that thanks to Brainstorm. Brainstorm already does so much, but it even does more in this deck. Controlling your cascade while filtering cards is insane, and you can do that thanks to
Brainstorm and Sylvan Library! The best way to beat big control decks is to cast more spells then they have counters, and Bloodbraid Elf goes a long
way in helping with that. Stoneforge Mystic is on the rise in Legacy, and I think it’s time to bring back Trygon Predator to put ole Batterskull
and friends in their place.
Your fish matchup is pretty good game one, but after boarding, you are a nightmare for them. You gain access to two Red Elemental Blasts, Llawan,
Cephalid Empress, and Umezawa’s Jitte. What genocide!
Against big blue decks, we don’t need much since we’re already favored against them. We bring in Boom / Bust and Thrun, the Last Troll. Thrun is
so powerful against the heavy blue control decks—he will usually prove too powerful for your opponent. I wouldn’t just throw him out there
against a big U/W deck though. I would try to Clique them to make sure they have no Wraths or wait until I had a Force of Will, especially if they’re
not putting any pressure on. I’m really excited for Boston, so I can put this deck to the test.
Hopefully this article cleared up a few things about my thoughts on the current Standard format. I won’t say Wes was wrong about me playing a
“Blighted Agent” deck, but I had my reasons! I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to recently. I find it hard to make time
to write these articles. It’s still something I greatly enjoy, and I still do appreciate all of you, my readers. Thanks everyone!
-Ali, Mage of Zhalfir
P.S. If you guys have any questions you can reach me on the forums or hit me up on Facebook. If you have a quirky rogue deck, I’d love to see it.
Hopefully I’ll see some of you guys in Boston! :]